Conquering adversity

October 07, 2004, vol. 31, no. 3
By Howard Fluxgold

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Graduating students who receive their degrees during fall convocation may have faced some adversity in their lives.

But if they are lucky, none will have faced the life-threatening situation of student speaker Matthew Janes, who has earned an executive master of business administration.

Halfway through the two-year program, Janes, a consulting geotechnical engineer, was diagnosed with abdominal cancer. While continuing his studies and helping his newly pregnant wife look after their two children, Janes underwent four abdominal surgeries and eight weeks of radiation therapy.

Janes said he never thought of quitting his studies while undergoing treatment. “The program kept my mind off everything else. The stress would have been devastating if I didn't have something to take my mind off my illness.”

Not only did he continue his studies, but he won the $60,000 first prize in the 2003 TELUS New Ventures B.C. competition, one of North America's largest technology business idea competitions.

Janes, now a father of three and cancer free for the last year, will speak at the morning ceremony of Oct. 8 about the new perspective on life he has developed out of the adversity he faced.

Students have been speaking at convocation since 1998. The tradition has become a popular one, with faculty and staff nominating deserving students and Ron Heath, dean of student services and registrar selecting one for each of the ceremonies.

Other speakers at fall convocation are:

Veronika Ziegler
Zeigler, who speaks at the morning ceremony on Oct. 7, is part of the first graduating class from the newly named faculty of arts and social sciences. Appropriately, her bachelor of arts in English and archeology represents both arts and social science.

Zeigler is taking the year off to earn enough to continue her education at either the University of California at Berkeley or Oxford University. She plans to focus on zoo-archeology, the study of ancient animal bones, and hopes to one day teach at university.

Nina Reiniger
Reiniger is adding a new twist to the student speaker tradition because she isn't a graduating SFU student this year. She earned her bachelor of science from SFU in June 1998 and is currently at Harvard University working on her doctorate in biological and biomedical sciences. She is looking for the causes and eventually a cure for lung disease in cystic fibrosis patients.

Reiniger praises SFU's co-op program, which helped her decide both what she wanted to do and what she didn't want to do.

“My experiences in the co-operative education program were key factors in my decision to pursue medical sciences and helped to prepare me for graduate school,” she says.

In her address to the afternoon ceremony on Oct. 7, Reiniger plans to advise grads “to learn how to balance current happiness and future happiness. It is easy to get swept up in work and striving for your career goals, but equally important is taking time for yourself, for your friends and family and for pursuing goals in other parts of your life.”

Reiniger has been invited back to SFU to address co-op education's Dreamchaser program.

Jonathan Silveira
Jonathan Silveira, who receives a graduate diploma in business administration, is actually an old hand at convocation speeches.

As a member of the board at Langara college he was asked to speak to their graduating students recently.

Silveira, who graduated from SFU with a bachelor of arts in psychology in 2002, was a member of the student society and the board of governors. As a member of the society he helped negotiate the UPass for SFU students.

“It was a controversial idea at the time and several obstacles had to be overcome,” recalls Silveira who works in real estate finance. Silveira will speak at the afternoon ceremony on Oct. 8.

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